We gave Parkinson’s a swift KICK this weekend! Very proud to announce that Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” karate and its sister program Norwin Ninjas in conjunction with Team Kumite to have combined to raise over $10,000 for The Pittsburgh Institute of Neurological Diseases #PIND Read more.
The “KICK” concept was developed Irwin native Bill Viola Jr., founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, and former Mayor and State Senator Sean Logan. Logan was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in his mid-forties and Viola spent years caring for his Grandmother who passed away from neurodegenerative complications.
Logan developed a 5K to promote his “Do Something” campaign as means to encourage exercise. Physical activity has been proven to be an effective method to combat Parkinson’s disease. Viola parented with Logan in 2017 to add a “Kick-a-thon” element to the 5k, and its growth has been exponential. Viola explains, “Last year the KICK raised just over $5000 with 50 participants. This year we doubled both brining us up to over $15,000 with just two kicks-a-thons.
Karate kid Gabby Viola kicks back at bowel disease
MARY PICKELS | Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 1:33 a.m.
Her blonde ponytails and bare feet flying, the purple belt she’s earned in karate cinched at her waist (the same belt dad Bill Viola Jr. earned many years ago), Gabby Viola appears happiest when in motion.
She kicks, jabs, spins, all with a look of determination surprising for a 7-year-old.
Gabby has been learning karate since the age of 2, and began competing at age 3.
Viola puts his daughter through her paces as her mother, Jenn Viola, and brother, Will, 10 months, watch. Gabby is a member of Team “Kumite,” an all-star travel team composed of martial artists from Allegheny Shotokan.
The illness, Viola says, has elements of both Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
“It was very scary at that point,” he says.
A treatment of oral steroids for inflammation has not helped.
The family recently visited Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion and to get more information. Gabby is trying a different round of treatment, her father says, and the family is hoping she will go into remission.
A new normal
Gabby’s diet has had to change since her diagnosis.
“I can’t have gluten, dairy or grain. And limited sugar. I love chocolate,” she says.
“So we’re working hard on that right now,” her father says sympathetically.
“We’re a very proactive family. We are trying everything, looking into holistic approaches. We want to touch on every possible solution,” Viola says.
Another student at the karate school has the same diagnosis, and his parents are able to share some advice with the Violas.
“She has a buddy here who can help her,” Viola adds.
“There is no cure. You can only fight to get it into remission. That’s what she’s fighting to do,” he says.
No stopping her
Gabby’s participation in the U.S. Open ISKA World Championships, Viola says, “was a game-time decision.”
“We were worried at first she wasn’t going to be able to do it because of the diagnosis,” he says.
Gabby, however, never saw her health issue as an impediment.
She says she was confident she would do well, and believed she would take first place.
“It didn’t matter if she won or lost. We were just proud of her that she did it,” Viola says.
‘Kicking’ for others
On Sept. 3, Gabby will once again participate in the Kick-A-Thon to raise funds for the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegnerative Diseases event at Pittsburgh’s Boyce Park.
The goal is to “kick” Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s Disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the event’swebsite .
Viola, who lost his grandmother to neurodegnerative complications, developed the kick-a-thon , along with former state Sen. Sean Logan, who developed the 5K after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Her family believes she can be an inspiration to the other students in the dojo.
“She’s so little and she’s so strong. … That’s why we’re sharing this story. We are all about hope,” Viola says.
“What does karate teach you, Gabby?” he asks his daughter.
“Be tough, and have courage,” she says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.